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Abu Dhabi port's new food hub to play crucial role in tackling supply shortages

The National logo The National 28/06/2022 Patrick Ryan

The UAE is set to play a key role in tackling the global food crisis, in part through the recently announced food hub at Kizad, experts have said.

The site, which was announced in February, will act as a food trading and logistics centre in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi.

Food security experts said it would act as a fulcrum in helping to provide solutions to the current crisis, which was exacerbated by both the Covid-19 pandemic as well as recent events in Ukraine.

“The regional food hub in Abu Dhabi will be the largest of its kind in the region and will connect the eastern and western markets,” said Capt Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, managing director and group chief executive of AD Ports Group.

The regional food hub in Abu Dhabi will be the largest of its kind in the region and will connect the eastern and western markets

Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, group chief executive, AD Ports Group

“October’s conference comes at a time when food security is a top priority for the UAE leaders. They want the country to lead in tackling global food security.”

The comments were made at a press conference on Monday morning as Abu Dhabi prepares to host a major international conference on food security in October.

The World Union of Wholesale Markets 2022 Conference will take place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and bring together leading international figures to discuss ways to solve the crisis.

Ukraine and Russia produce about a third of the world’s wheat, the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute reported.

Recent events as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, have only served to accelerate the need to find solutions to the problem, Captain Al Shamisi said.

There must be a focus on getting away from producing certain types of crops or foods in only one or a few locations, reducing the chances of shortages in the future, he added.

“We need to look at a micro level of farming distribution and logistics,” said Captain Al Shamisi.

“Countries and continents need to look at securing against further disruptions.”

Khalifa Port acts as a gateway for the adjacent Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi. Photo: Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi © Provided by The National Khalifa Port acts as a gateway for the adjacent Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi. Photo: Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

One example of how the UAE is diversifying its output is the Emirates Wheat project, which was launched in 2017.

A total of 170 farms are taking part in the programme, which produces more than 80 tonnes of wheat during harvest season.

Another expert speaking at Monday’s press conference said time was running out to tackle the food security crisis.

“Covid-19, combined with the effects of climate change, has shown us we need to act to rebuild our supply chains in order to feed our populations in the years and decades to come,” said Eugenia Carrara, secretary general of the World Union of Wholesale Markets, an organisation that promotes sustainable food security and systems.

“Our members are working together to ensure safety, affordability, and sustainable access of fresh food for all through modern wholesale markets and more efficient food supply chains.”

October’s conference will offer a real opportunity to help bring about the necessary changes, she added.

“This conference is coming at an important time and it’s also being held in a key location,” said Ms Carrara.

“The Mena region links several continents across the world and is a key strategic point.

“This is a critical moment in human history and we really need to come up with new strategies at local, regional and international level.”

A recent report by the World Bank said there was little sign of the crisis abating anytime soon.

“The impact of the war in Ukraine adds risk to global food security, with food prices likely to remain high for the foreseeable future and [is] expected to push millions of additional people into acute food insecurity,” stated the report, which was released last week.

“While the outlook for global food supplies remains favourable, food prices increased sharply due to elevated input prices which, combined with high transport costs and trade disruptions due to the war in Ukraine, are raising import bills.

“That hits poor and developing countries hardest, as they depend on food imports the most.”

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